Replacing a misogynistic mnemonic

It is easy to get backwards when doing t-tests, especially when you’ve first started.  You have to remember that big t and small p-values mean to reject.  Of course, if you’re a little dyslexic (undiagnosed) like me, when you get confused, you can go back and re-figure out that you want small amounts in the tails and the t-slice to be far away from the mean making it large etc., but that is really time consuming, especially if you’re in the middle of a lengthy problem set or a timed exam.

Many years ago, one of my students shared a dirty misogynistic mnemonic.  When p is low, she said, reject the ho.  This is clever and funny because p is both probability and slang for penis.  Ho is both how a null hypothesis is written and a derogatory term for female prostitute.  When one’s penis is at low mast, it makes sense that said penis-holder might not be purchasing the services of a prostitute.  And it rhymes.

But it’s both dirty (I got into trouble for saying “prick” meaning “jerk” early in my classroom career) and one should not be using derogatory terms for prostitutes or women anywhere, much less in an institution of higher learning.

More recently, I was explaining my conundrum in office hours and one of my sunshiny students came up with a much better mnemonic.  It isn’t quite as clever, but it’s just as memorable and it still rhymes.  “When p is lo, reject H-O!”  Like a cheerleading chant (aich – oh).

It makes me much happier.

What are some good non-racist, non-misogynist, non-ablist, non-patriarchy mnemonics that you know?

13 Responses to “Replacing a misogynistic mnemonic”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Dunno abt t tests, as it’s always seemed totally intuitive to me that high t means low p means underlying distributions being sampled from are likely far apart. However, an EXACTLY analogous situation exists for the cranial nerves. They are olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, auditory, glossopharyngeal, vagus, accessory, hypoglossal. The nasty misogynist version is “oh, oh, oh, to touch and feel a girl’s vagina and hymen”. (sorry!) One common decent version is “On old Olympus’s towering tops a Finn and German vaulted a hedge”.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I know one for resistors colors that includes rape and slut shaming. Men suck.

    I like the first one here better. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_electronic_color_code_mnemonics

  3. rose Says:

    I was low and this made me laugh increasing joy.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    Null can’t make it to high t [tea]? Doesn’t rhyme. Null can’t be at high tea. Meh.

    I can’t think of many of these. In fact all I can think of is the one for planets, My Very Enormous Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles (yes, I’m old and had to learn Pluto as a planet). My mom is actually overweight, so I kind of liked it. Better: My Very Elegant Mother…

  5. Leah Says:

    For telling apart red and white oaks, the mnemonic I learned was “red oaks are pointed like the red man’s arrows; white oaks are round like the white man’s bullets.” UGH. I offered extra credit for years if students could come up with something better. No one did.

    Then, I was just sitting around with friends, and one immediately came up with this, which I will now be using to teach. “Red oaks are pointed like the tips of fire/flame; white oaks are rounded like a round snowball.”

    Another one that’s not as bad but not super appropriate: sedges have edges and rushes are round, and grasses, like asses, have holes. That’s for telling apart the different types of things people call grasses in a wetland. For example, cattails are rushes — they are round and solid so are not technically a grass.

    • Allyson Says:

      Hmm, I learned sedges have edges and rushes are round, grasses have elbows all around. It was at a residential ecology ed camp…


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